God our Father.* 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us* and persevere in running the race that lies before us 2while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.a 3Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. 5You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lordb
or lose heart when reproved by him;
6for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
7Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?c 8If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards. 9Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?d 10They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. 11At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.e
Penalties of Disobedience. 14h Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15* See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled,i 16that no one be an immoral or profane person like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.j 17For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit his father’s blessing, he was rejected because he found no opportunity to change his mind, even though he sought the blessing with tears.k
18* You have not approached that which could be touched*l and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm 19and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them,m 20for they could not bear to hear the command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”n 21Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”o 22No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering,p 23and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,* and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect,q 24and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently* than that of Abel.r
25See that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.s 26His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, “I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.”t 27That phrase, “once more,” points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.u 28Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.v 29For our God is a consuming fire.w
* [12:1–13] Christian life is to be inspired not only by the Old Testament men and women of faith (Heb 12:1) but above all by Jesus. As the architect of Christian faith, he had himself to endure the cross before receiving the glory of his triumph (Heb 12:2). Reflection on his sufferings should give his followers courage to continue the struggle, if necessary even to the shedding of blood (Heb 12:3–4). Christians should regard their own sufferings as the affectionate correction of the Lord, who loves them as a father loves his children.
* [12:1] That clings to us: the meaning is uncertain, since the Greek word euperistatos, translated cling, occurs only here. The papyrus P46 and one minuscule read euperispastos, “easily distracting,” which also makes good sense.
* [12:15–17] Esau serves as an example in two ways: his profane attitude illustrates the danger of apostasy, and his inability to secure a blessing afterward illustrates the impossibility of repenting after falling away (see Heb 6:4–6).
* [12:18–29] As a final appeal for adherence to Christian teaching, the two covenants, of Moses and of Christ, are compared. The Mosaic covenant, the author argues, is shown to have originated in fear of God and threats of divine punishment (Heb 12:18–21). The covenant in Christ gives us direct access to God (Heb 12:22), makes us members of the Christian community, God’s children, a sanctified people (Heb 12:23), who have Jesus as mediator to speak for us (Heb 12:24). Not to heed the voice of the risen Christ is a graver sin than the rejection of the word of Moses (Heb 12:25–26). Though Christians fall away, God’s kingdom in Christ will remain and his justice will punish those guilty of deserting it (Heb 12:28–29).
* [12:18] This remarkably beautiful passage contrasts two great assemblies of people: that of the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai for the sealing of the old covenant and the promulgation of the Mosaic law, and that of the followers of Jesus gathered at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of the new covenant. This latter scene, marked by the presence of countless angels and of Jesus with his redeeming blood, is reminiscent of the celestial liturgies of the Book of Revelation.
* [12:23] The assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven: this expression may refer to the angels of Heb 12:22, or to the heroes of the Old Testament (see Heb 11), or to the entire assembly of the new covenant.
* [12:24] Speaks more eloquently: the blood of Abel, the first human blood to be shed, is contrasted with that of Jesus. Abel’s blood cried out from the earth for vengeance, but the blood of Jesus has opened the way for everyone, providing cleansing and access to God (Heb 10:19).